As a technical translator, Frédéric Aubert is sold on mechanical keyboards. One of his favourites is the CM Storm Novatouch; it makes him itch to start work every day. Read his review to find out why.
- Keyboard make, model and price:
CM Storm Novatouch, ISO FR layout. Retail price varies between 120 and 190 euros. Branded under the Cooler Master gaming range, this is actually a very simple board with no backlighting or fancy features, apart from multimedia commands on the function keys.
The Novatouch is a tenkeyless (TKL) keyboard, which means it has no numpad. Your mouse is closer to the keyboard, you don’t have to stretch your right arm to get to it, it’s more ergonomic.
The keyboard is made of a thick plastic case, with a heavy metal plate supporting Topre switches, and is topped with a rubberized (“soft touch”) coating. It weighs in at just about 1 kg.
Topre (from Tokyo Press) switches are a Japanese hybrid between traditional rubber domes and mechanical switches. I won’t go into the details of electro-capacitive technology, so let’s say they’re the equivalent of a high-end rubber dome actuated by individual mechanical plungers. The feeling is slightly tactile, but with a linear action and an actuation force of 45 g, making it a light switch. They are not clicky, and they are rather quiet. Contrary to other Topre keyboards, the Novatouch uses proprietary sliders that make it compatible with aftermarket Cherry mx keycaps. I use thick, high-profile keycaps on mine.
- My last keyboard was:
Before the Novatouch I used a Filco Majestouch 2 with MX browns. I still use it today, along with a Qisan Magicforce 68. Yes, I’m a mechanical keyboard nut. Before all this, I used a Logitech wireless keyboard.
- Why I changed to the Novatouch:
For 2 main reasons: first, I wanted to try the TKL form factor, to see if it really was more comfortable. I don’t find that much of a difference in that respect compared to a full size keyboard, but I am broad-shouldered so maybe that helps. Still, I like that it frees up space on my desk.
Then, I really wanted to try the famous Topre switches. They are regarded by many as the Rolls Royce of mechanical switches, with a matching price tag. I seized the opportunity when I found a rather cheap one. The MX keycap compatibility of the Novatouch was a big plus for me.
- What I love about my keyboard:
The switches. The feeling is exceptional, like typing on firm, springy clouds. The tactility is well defined but not so present as to hinder the smoothness of the experience. The original keycaps are all black, but you can customize your board to your liking, which is great for an enthusiast like me. I also modded it so that it is extra-silent. It makes a gentle “thock” sound when typed on. Here’s what it sounds like.
- What I dislike about this keyboard:
The price point is rather high. I completely understand that very few people would spend €150 upwards on what is essentially “just a keyboard”. But as I said before, this is the price of Topre switches.
I don’t like the cable routing: the micro-usb port is located on the back of the keyboard but on the far right, which can be a bit awkward depending on your desk setup.
Some people have complained about the rubberized coating and its tendency to get dirty/greasy, most notably above the arrow cluster. I don’t have that problem, probably due to skin chemistry.
- Other comments:
So how did I get into mechanical keyboards? One day I started thinking about how I could improve my productivity “organically”. Since 95% of my time was spent typing on a keyboard, it made sense to invest in the best keyboard I could possibly find; and even if that only led to a 2% increase in productivity, well that would be great!
I bought a Filco and loved it immediately. My productivity did actually increase, my comfort too (this led to an interest in ergonomics). I paid more attention to my typing technique, which made me more efficient, and for a technical translator, there’s loads of stuff that’s super interesting to learn about (spring resistance anyone?). But the greatest thing about this for me was that, for a few months, I just couldn’t wait to get to work to spend some time with my fancy toy. Today I like to change boards once in a while to keep things interesting. Who said you couldn’t mix business with pleasure?
Frédéric Aubert is a freelance technical translator with 10 years of experience and a literary background. He specializes in IT, mechanical engineering and marketing and works from English to French. When he’s not translating or tweaking keyboards, he likes to record his own music, cook a nice meal or read a good novel.
Over to you
If you use the CM Storm Novatouch keyboard, like or dislike it, or have any questions about it, please leave a comment below.
Want to write about another keyboard? Check out this introductory post to the Keyboard Corner!
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Where did you get the MX keycap’s from?
Hi Gary and sorry for the late reply.
The keycaps come from a group buy called “Round 5”, organized by the enthusiast community at http://deskthority.net
The community is very active and there are lots of options for replacement keycaps for Cherry MX.